Has Kyle Shanahan learned from his mistakes of Super Bowls past? Can Christian McCaffrey keep scoring at will? If yes, the Niners will win. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Dec 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) and running back Christian McCaffrey (23) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than a week away from Super Bowl LVIII, and very soon we’ll know if we have a repeat champion for the first time in 20 years in the Kansas City Chiefs, or if the San Francisco 49ers will be able to win their first Super Bowl since 1994.

This will be the second-ever Super Bowl matchup between the two teams, as the Chiefs pulled out a 31-20 victory over the Niners in Super Bowl LIV after scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Can Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers get revenge on Kansas City in Las Vegas? Here are five reasons why they’ll be able to come away with a win.

1. Christian McCaffrey

When the 49ers traded three 2023 draft picks and a 2024 draft pick to the Carolina Panthers for running back Christian McCaffrey at the 2022 trade deadline, he immediately felt like the missing piece that would put San Francisco’s offense over the top. It’s hard to argue with the results.

In 32 games for the 49ers since being traded, McCaffrey has scored a touchdown in 26 of the games. He scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in each of San Francisco’s wins over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions this postseason. McCaffrey’s 14 rushing touchdowns in the regular season led the Niners by far, but his seven receiving touchdowns also tied him for the team lead along with wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

2. Kyle Shanahan

While he’d been in the league for a few years prior in other offensive coordinator roles and had name recognition by being the son of two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan, it was his time as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons that put Kyle Shanahan on the map. The 2016 Falcons had the highest-scoring offense in the league en route to an 11-5 record and first career MVP for quarterback Matt Ryan.

Everyone knows how Atlanta’s story ended. The Falcons held a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI but gave up 25 points in the fourth quarter and went on to lose in overtime. Shanahan’s late-game play calling and failure to bleed the clock were criticized after the game, but he still went on to be named head coach of the 49ers.

That loss, as well as the aforementioned Super Bowl LIV collapse against the Chiefs, are surely on Shanahan’s mind this week as he heads back to the big game. It’s reasonable to assume that after two similar collapses, the 44-year-old head coach has learned his lesson and plans to evolve, preventing it from happening a third time.

3. Pass Rush

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been to three other Super Bowls and brings a 2-1 record into this game. In the loss, a 31-9 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, Mahomes was effectively neutralized. He went 26-for-49 for 270 yards with a pair of interceptions, and a big reason why was Tampa’s relentless pass rush.

Mahomes was sacked three times and hit a total of nine times as the Buccaneers constantly pressured the two-time MVP. San Francisco recorded an NFC-best 48 sacks in the 2023 season and has recorded just two so far in two postseason games, both of which came from former Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

If Bosa can continue to wreak havoc in the backfield, it should lead to double teams which should mean it’s just a matter of time before Arik Armstead, Chase Young, and the rest of the 49ers’ pass rush can get to Mahomes and attempt to replicate the defensive gameplan that made Tampa so successful three years ago.

4. Brock Purdy

Let’s get this out of the way. 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy isn’t Patrick Mahomes. He’s also a clear upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco’s quarterback four years ago when they fell to the Chiefs. The season-long great debate about Purdy was exhausting at times, and win or lose it will almost certainly continue for years to come.

The fact is, Shanahan and the 49ers have tailored an offense that doesn’t ask Purdy to do too much and simply focuses on his strengths. Having McCaffrey helps tremendously. Having standout receivers in Aiyuk and Samuel and tight end George Kittle helps, but Purdy also excels at playing mostly mistake-free football. In the past 10 games, he’s thrown seven interceptions, but four of the seven came in San Francisco’s disastrous Christmas Night outing against the Baltimore Ravens.

In San Francisco’s NFC Championship victory over the Detroit Lions, Purdy went 20-for-31 with one touchdown and one interception. 12 of Purdy’s 20 completions came in the second half, as did all 48 of his rushing yards, as the former Mr. Irrelevant excelled at making plays to extend drives and protected the ball tremendously.

That helped the 49ers come back from a 24-7 halftime deficit to come away with a 34-31 victory.

5. Punting

Laugh all you want, but consider the following. Oddsmakers project this game to be very narrow in either direction, with a spread of just 2.5 points as of Monday. In a game like that where it could come down to a one-possession game, every facet is important. This leads us to Niners punter Mitch Wishnowsky. San Francisco punted just 52 times this year.

Of the 52 punts Wishnowsky uncorked this season, 26 landed inside the 20-yard line. This 50% rate is second-best in the NFL for punts inside the 20-yard line behind Tennessee Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse (28-for-53, 52.8%). Making things even better for San Francisco is the fact that just two of Wishnowsky’s 52 punts resulted in touchbacks. His 3.8% was fourth-best in the league in this category.

Even if just one of Wishnowsky’s punts can land inside the 20 without going into the end zone for a touchback, that makes that much farther of a drive for Mahomes and the Kansas City offense, leading to chances for the San Francisco defense to pounce and turn it around to a short field for Purdy and the offense.